Asheville Anniversary Trip

Better late than never, right? Benjamin and I had a short but peaceful weekend getaway to Asheville, NC for our anniversary in May, and we visited some really excellent small businesses while there. With Asheville so close to Greenville, it’s a great day trip destination, and these places are certainly worth visiting.

Corner Kitchen

Nestled right on the cobblestone sidewalks of the Biltmore Village, this home-turned-restaurant is a charming dinner destination. While the atmosphere is cozy and intimate, you’ll find the food to be unexpected and perfectly prepared.

ramen

Unexpected, indeed, to find this mind-blowing bowl of ramen in the cottage-like atmosphere of Corner Kitchen. The broth was rich and flavorful, and the pork belly was perfection itself.

For the thirsty, there is an impressive wine and beer menu, along with many signature cocktails. Corner Kitchen is casual enough for a laid-back lunch, but is certainly special enough for a fancier occasion.

souffle

For dessert: a fresh raspberry souffle with lemon and cream sauce. To DIE for.

 

Malaprop’s Bookstore

You can tell a lot about a town by the quality of its small bookstores, and Malaprop’s Bookstore represents Asheville with good taste and plenty of charm. Something I appreciate in a bookstore: good organization. Malaprop’s offers a wide variety of books, and they’re all labeled and organized. Such a pleasant shopping experience.

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Malaprop’s had an excellent collection of regional books and authors.

Curate

One of the most exciting experiences we had in Asheville was at Curate…and, we got so wrapped up in enjoying the food and atmosphere that we forgot to take photos altogether (face palm). As one of the hottest restaurants in Asheville at the moment, we were lucky to get a table—literally grabbed the last lunch reservation, and we were reserving a week in advance! There’s a reason Curate is so popular, though: the Spanish-style tapas cuisine is not only delicious, but unique and unexpected. We ordered a variety of dishes, from a tomato bruschetta (very simple, but so flavorful), preserved white asparagus with lemon vinaigrette, shrimp with sherry, and fried eggplant with rosemary and honey. It was unbelievably scrumptious, and I would return in a heartbeat (and take pictures, next time!)

French Broad Chocolates

The place I probably wanted to visit the most in Asheville was French Broad Chocolates, the ultimate Mecca for any chocolate lover. They offer hand-crafted chocolates (anything from truffles, chocolate bars, hot cocoa mixes, and more), baked goods, coffees, ice creams, and more. I tried their legendary liquid truffle while there (I can’t describe how decadent and delicious it was), then we returned for a box of truffles, which were an incredible experience.

truffles

Smoked salt, raspberry, strawberry & balsamic, earl grey…just some of the flavors we picked out for our box of truffles. French Broad Chocolates has a wide variety of flavors, including seasonal  themed collections.

There are dozens of other restaurants, bakeries, shops, and more that we could have explored, but we were so pleased with the taste of Asheville we experienced. It’s a beautiful vacation spot with lots of fun activities, not least of which is, of course, the spectacular Biltmore house. Give these spots a try, and let me know how you like them!

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Celebrating one excellent first year of marriage with Benjamin. What a great weekend!

Joe’s Place – Literary and Community Hub

As a long-time bookworm and former English major, bookstores have a special place in my heart.  As I’ve been scouting out exemplary bookstores in the upstate SC area, Joe’s Place Bookstore has marked itself as a must-visit, must-support, must-love location.

sunny window

There were lots of cozy rooms at Joe’s Place, but this sunny room with the window seats completely won me over.

Let’s not sugar-coat it: bookstores often struggle to stay in business.  In my hometown, two used bookstores I visited frequently both abruptly shut down due to patrons doing more browsing than actual buying.  However, I’ve noticed several small bookstores beginning to revamp their business by pairing book selling with using their space for social and educational opportunities.  Joe’s Place is a great example of this store/community center hybrid, and they’re hitting it out of the park.

outside

Benjamin bought a stir-fry cook book from Joe’s Place, and we enjoyed picking recipes while sipping cappuccinos on the porch.

You’ll find Joe’s Place’s new location in a beautifully transformed home on Williams Street.  I was absolutely smitten with this place not just because of the incredible variety of books, but because the owners at Joe’s Place have maintained a true homelike feeling in their new space.  In every room, there are comfy chairs and sofas or spacious tables where you can spread out your bookstore finds.

coffee station

All the snacks, coffee, and yummy teas you could want after you’ve selected a good book.

Downstairs, you’ll find a little cafe with pastries and local chocolate treats, plus excellent coffee drinks using locally-roasted Due South coffee beans.  Directly across from the coffee station is Joe’s Place’s beautiful wine bar, with rows of gleaming bottles and plenty of vintage charm.  Whether you have a glass of wine or a steaming cup of java, the outside covered porch is a serene place to sip, chat, and enjoy flipping through a book.

wine bar

Joe’s Place’s wine bar; just look at that beautiful architecture, plus those poofy armchairs–perfect for leisurely sipping.

Joe’s Place also hosts a variety of weekly events, anything from topical crash-courses, introductory classes on wine, book club meetings, and trivia nights.  They’ve formulated an excellent business model that blends merchandise, food and beverage, and resources for the community.  Their comfortable environment and spacious rooms offer the ideal place for coffee dates and study spots, and they’re filled to the brim with excellent books–a true delight to discover.  Follow them on Instagram, and definitely go visit…and when you do, browse AND buy!